Lee Westwood (Getty Images)
Lee Westwood has numerous reasons to be optimistic ahead of this week’s Dubai World Championship presented by DP World.
The 38 year old Englishman heads into the highly-anticipated season-ending event on the back of an impressive victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, where he compiled a sensational course-record 62 on day three.
Third in the Official World Golf Rankings and fifth in the Race to Dubai, Westwood is now hoping to enjoy further success on a course that provides fond memories.
Victory here in 2009 was enough to see Westwood crowned European Number One, and 12 months ago he finished just a shot behind Robert Karlsson in a tie for third.
Referring to his previous success at this venue, Westwood said: “It’s good to be back. I always play pretty well in Dubai and I’m looking forward to this week.
With modest understatement, he added: “My form’s pretty good. That (his third round in the Nedbank) is about as good as I’ve ever played I think. I can’t recall missing a shot.
“It's nice when you click into that kind of gear where your mind is in the right place, you're calm, and your swing feels good and you're on auto pilot, really.
“It was nice to come in here with that kind of form and come back to a golf course that I have finished first and third at, and had a chance to win last year.”
Westwood can also take heart from his improved displays with the putter, a frequent source of frustration for him in recent years.
Reflecting on his performances throughout 2011, he explained: “My putting has not been as good as I would have liked it. Proof of that was really last week.
“If I have a week where I putt and hole my fair share, I'm leading by seven going into the final round. If I have a week where I just putt okay, I have a chance of winning. And if I have a week where I don't put very good at all, it seems like I finish 10th to 20th.
“That really shows the level where my game is at. I would have liked to had a few better results this year and won a few more times.
“I would just like to putt better more often really. That's just what I'm working on at the moment and it's improving. It felt a lot better last week, (I’ve) definitely turned the corner with (putting coach) Phil Kenyon.”
Although Westwood will understandably be focussed on his own game this week, he admits he will also have one eye on the battle between Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy for the Race to Dubai crown he memorably claimed two years ago.
McIlroy must win to have any chance of overtaking his English rival, who would also have to finish outside the top nine at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I think anybody who enjoys golf and enjoys watching golf likes to see the season-ending event go down to the wire,” Westwood added.
“You don't want a foregone conclusion. It's nice to see two people battling it out where somebody could have a putt to win both and win the Money List and the tournament.”